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Festival Preview: Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest

Jazz festival in Reading, Pa area features both mainstream and smooth jazz artists

Joe Sample and the Jazz Crusaders
George Duke
George Duke (photo: Bobby Holland)

For the next few weeks, we’ll be previewing upcoming festivals happening this spring and summer. First up is the Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest, a hidden gem located about an hour from Philadelphia and a few hours from New York City.

The Reading, Pa. area is known for its shopping thanks to a bevy of outlet stores. But for the last 20 years, the area has also played host to a jazz festival that blends both mainstream and smooth jazz styles, with an occasional dollop of blues and R&B. The 21st annual Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest will be held March 25 through April 3 and includes more than 130 events at various venues, clubs and restaurants throughout Berks County. The festival is presented by the Berks Arts Council and is sponsored by Boscov’s Department Store. John Ernesto is the longtime artistic director of the festival and has always balanced the programming with both smooth jazz and mainstream jazz.

Headliners this year include: The Rippingtons, featuring Russ Freeman; Brian Culbertson; Chieli Minucci & Special EFX; Brian Bromberg Band with special guest Randy Brecker; Trombone Shorty; Guitars & Saxes featuring Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum, Peter White and Jeff Golub; George Duke Trio; Jeff Lorber Fusion; Joey DeFrancesco Trio; Stanley Clarke Band; Victor Wooten Band; Dave Brubeck Quartet; Guitar Masters with Bucky Pizzarelli, Frank Vignola, Gene Bertoncini and Howard Alden; Al DiMeola’s World Sinfonia; Fourplay; The Original Jazz Crusaders featuring Joe Sample, Wilton Felder & Wayne Henderson; and many more.

Bassist Gerald Veasley, whose Jazz Base nightclub acts as both a performance venue and a late night hang for the musicians, hosts his annual Bass Boot Camp at the Crowne Plaza Hotel during one weekend of the festival (March 25-27). Over 100 bassists at every level come to learn from the masters and each other. Among the guest clinicians this year are Jimmy Haslip, Adam Nitti, David Dyson, and of course Veasley himself.

For a complete and updated schedule of the festival, you can visit the festival’s website.

Originally Published